In 1999 E.Z was bitten by a black pitbull bitch. It was a very slight bite, not more than a small wound on her nose, a cat’s scratch, not a real dog’s bite, it was so slight. But the shock awakened a lot. Since then she has been afraid of this kind of dog. She even crosses the road if she sees one approaching in the distance.
‘It’s no wonder that this dog bit me,’ she thought then. ‘For months now I haven’t been able to breathe, my breath sticks in my throat, that’s what it feels like. The bite on my nose is a sign that I need to breathe better,’ she told herself.
She couldn’t breathe well because she was anxious and sad. A year before the dog bit her, in the summer of 1998, her boyfriend died in a diving accident in the Blue Hole in the Red Sea. He was only 22 years old. Since then she couldn’t breathe anymore. It was as if she too had drowned and couldn’t get any air.
Although E.Z had built a new life and found a new love, she was still preoccupied with the accident. She asked herself why it had happened. The loss, the longing and the grief for her dead boyfriend would not pass.
The story found a place in her thoughts and her artistic work. In 2007 she made a self-portrait with the title Looking Forward. The image came into being by chance while she was working on a photograph. She accidentally placed two body parts together in the wrong order; her own head, facing the wrong way, without torso, directly on her buttocks and kneeling legs. When she saw this image on the computer screen, she had a special feeling of recognition. Everything fell into place. ‘That’s me,’ she thought. Why this was the case she could not say.
She later executed this image as a ceramic sculpture. She placed it in a domestic decor, with wallpaper and shirts hung up to dry.
This sculpture depicted her longing for the time with her dead boyfriend and the self-pity she felt after his death. She also thought of the fairy tale about the Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid longed for a human prince. The price for achieving that desire was high; she had to sacrifice her voice to the witch and suffer pain with every step she took, in exchange for a pair of human legs. E.Z also wanted a perfect man. She had thought that she had had such a man. And suffered his death as a punishment for her longing.
In 2010 she made a new version of the sculpture Looking Forward, but instead of ceramics she used papier-mâché. She quickly built a structure out of wood and newspapers, but it didn’t work. The head was far too big, especially the forehead. ‘The sculpture looks more like a dog than a woman,’ she thought. She left the work untouched. For nearly two years it just lay in her studio.
In 2012 she tried to complete the sculpture. ‘It doesn’t necessarily have to look like a woman, it could also be a female dog, like the black bitch that bit me in Jerusalem and of which I am still afraid,’ she thought. It became a black dog, like Anubis, the Egyptian god guarding the dead in the pyramids of the kings. And again she thought of her dead boyfriend, who had drowned in the Blue Hole in Egypt.
Why am I still afraid of the dog? Why do I see her so often in my dreams? Perhaps I am an Anubis myself, she thought. I’m the one still guarding the dead. I’m not only guarding the dead, but also his story. I cannot let him go.
The mouth of the sculpted dog Anubis is blocked with a shell that closes it off like the black stopper of a drain. It can’t bark or bite anymore, but more importantly, she cannot reveal the secret story. The story is about death. It is forbidden from talking about it.
But what cannot emerge from it mouth, tries to come out from behind. When you are overflowing with a story, it always finds a way out.
© Efrat Zehavi 2013